Today was the first rally/march for the Days of Resistance to the G20 in Toronto. People met up in Allen Gardens, a spacious, beautiful park downtown with many big old trees. I went a bit early to meet up with medics and as soon as I got there, I saw a person with a backpack surrounded by cops on bikes (16 I counted). Apparently this person’s backpack “looked too big” and was threatened with arrest if they wouldn’t let the cops search the backpack.
Well. Nothing doing. The media were there in droves. At least 15 camera-people, lots of reporters. And lots of police on bikes. Actually, the police outnumbered the protestors at first. As I waited sitting on the grass with some friends, 10 bike cops parked themselves right next to us, in a clear show of intimidation.
There was a rally where people took the speakerphone and spoke about varying issues from the history of the capitalist economy, to immigration practices that violate human rights, to the intimidation of the state through police to scare Torontonians into staying at home. The march itself was not themed on any specific issue but called “All out in defense of the rights of all.”
The march began. Before we even left the park, the police made a barrier with their bikes not letting us pass. After about 15 seconds of a “Let us walk!” chant, they moved. We marched for about 2 hours around the streets near Church and Carlton. At one point the march stopped at an Esso gas station and some people were inside for a bit. A seeming protestor at this point started yelling and getting pissed at this tactic. Many people started yelling “He’s a cop!” and by the looks of how he ran away when the activist media tried to talk to him, I think I can conclude that he was a planted provacateur.
There were many chants like “Healthcare, Child care, anything but warfare!” which I liked. Lots of “Fuck the police” which was very confrontational. It was interesting to march with bike cops lined up wheel to wheel on either side. If I did believe they were there to protect us and not harass us, it would have been super empowering. There were about 200 bike cops. Most of them looked sweaty, and bored. At least they’re getting paid to come to these demos!
Some fun facts. It looks like the police are being sponsored by Gatorade. That’s nice. Some people tried to talk to the police, some were mean to them. There were people in the march walking with big trays of food – bread, sliced tomatoes, salad, which people were just eating with their hands. It was great. That’s where I got my lunch.
The march ended at the Childrens Aid Society building, which many accused of taking poor children from their families and abusing them. A couple of activists went inside, and when they came back out reported that they had spoken with some CAS people, who agreed with the activists and admitted that the system was flawed, but that they felt their hands were tied as they were only lowly workers in the sytem who didn’t get to call the shots.
All in all, it was a good day. There were many people out on the streets of Toronto who probably saw their first show of public dissent. For the police it was also a good day. There were no major altercations, though I did hear one person got jumped or something. There were no medical emergencies. Water was the main concern, and people seemed to have come prepared with gear. The protesting chants focused on the police more than I would have liked. So I am going to try and think of some cheers that diss Harper and not the cops.
Personally, I am tired. I think I needed to bring more food, like a good sandwich, not just granola bars. I had lots of water in my bag which made it heavy and my shoulders are very sore now. My feet also hurt. I wore shorts and a long sleeved lightweight shirt, and a hat, which kept me cool.
Leaving the demo, bike cops were following activists on the streets, and stopped some people for “blocking the sidwalk”. If people have cameras, it definitely deterred the police from pushing it. Having a camera in their face helps. Medics were targeted and harassed. We removed any indicating signs on our clothes.
Tomorrow I will check out the convergence space which I hear is sweet. I can’t wait till the Radical Cheerleaders show up.